We concurrently launched two programs aimed at mothers who look after children during the day. The first, ‘Mums Who Ball’ is a mothers’ daytime competition that focuses on the fundamentals of the sport and game play. The mothers, and grandmothers, are separated into different teams each week, providing them with the opportunity to meet other mothers within our community. In these teams they then play four 10 minute quarters. The second, ‘Baby Ballers’, is a children’s program that runs on the court adjacent to mothers playing in the ‘Mums Who Ball’ competition. Children aged from 6 months to 4 years are exposed to an environment full of visual and kinaesthetic learning experiences.
While a mothers’ daytime competition is not groundbreaking, we have worked to eliminate barriers to participation and make it as accessible as possible, including by initiating the ‘Baby Ballers’ program.
Mothers with babies in prams are also encouraged to bring them and have them courtside, which has been an enabler for new mothers to get involved with their newborns close by.
Recognising the dynamic nature of mothers’ lifestyles, the weekly commitment is purely optional and there is no requirement for ongoing registration. This does mean that each week numbers do fluctuate, however we have established a ‘core’ group of mothers and their children who participate each week.
The cost is $10 per game which covers the court administration and a post-game tea or coffee and snack. The ‘Baby Ballers’ program is an additional $5.
Like many sports, basketball incurs a steep drop off in participation rates of women after the age of 16. In Canberra this was further evidenced by the declining number of women’s teams in social competitions which are traditionally played on weeknights. The number of women’s teams dropped from 60 in 2015 to 49 in 2017.
When surveying outgoing teams as to why they would not return, responses ranged from the cost, the length of the sessions (too long) and the often-late-hour the games were being played. By providing a program that allowed ex-players and mothers in our community to play during the daytime, without having to commit to our regular competition schedules, allowed us to broaden our reach as an organisation and to reconnect with our community, in a pressure free, inclusive environment.
Although the program is in its early stages and we have yet to conduct a formal review, participant numbers have been steadily increasing. In the program’s first week there were seven participants and now there are in excess of 20 each week. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the competition has re-sparked mothers’ interest in basketball because a number of daytime participants have now organised a team to re-enter the night competition. We have also seen a number of our ‘Baby Ballers’ transition into other development programs that we run, including Aussie Hoops, 8 and Unders and the Holiday Hoops Camp.
There has been additional interest in running a ‘Dads Who Ball’ competition or a ‘Parents Who Ball’ competition to give the same daytime opportunities to men who look after their children.